The discussion of AR-15 or 5.56 pistols chambered to the 5.56x45mm NATO round is sure to bring various reactions. One thing is certain; there is a wide variety available, depending on how much you want to spend and the features you desire. We are going to briefly explore 8 different models along with the pros/ cons.
5.56 pistols are a hybrid of sorts, because they are pistols which fire rifle cartridges. The firearms industry has done this in a variety of weapons over the years with the T/C Contender, Remington XP-100, etc. Yes, but those are not semi- automatics combined with being chambered to rifle cartridges. One might think you can take an AR-15 lower receiver, remove the buttstock, install a short barrel, and have a pistol. Not exactly, as you will have just created a Short Barreled Rifle (SBR), subject to prior BATFE approval and $200 tax stamp. These 5.56 pistols, because they were submitted to ATF as a pistol, are not SBR’s, and are not subject to the restrictions of SBR’s.
Let’s first look at the “buffer tube” style of 5.56 pistol, or those equipped with a buffer tube projecting from the rear of the receiver. These tend to be built around an AR-15 lower receiver. A quick web search turned up 5 of these:
Sig Sauer P556XI-10-Classic-PSB (SIG 556)
FedArms 7.5″ Free Float Rail Pistol
All the above 5.56 pistols appear to be well made and relatively popular. There are a few drawbacks, however.
Price is one of the negatives, as most of the above named pistols tend to run in the $1500 range. The other drawback is the buffer tube hanging out of the rear of these pistols. Some folks take advantage of this by installing some sort of brace, but check your state laws before doing so.
The next two 5.56 pistols are sans buffer tubes, making them shorter, lighter, and easier to carry. The Zenith is made in Turkey and will run you a cool $1600.
The Extar however, is a different story. At around $500 retail, you get a light, short, well designed pistol which can be outfitted with a variety of accessories. The reviews coming in have stated that the Extar is reliable, handy, and comfortable to shoot. The only problem seems to be with availability, although it has improved recently as demand has risen. Here is a video review conducted on the Extar which shows some of its capabilities: